Monday, April 30, 2012
Review: Dallas Opera’s showing of The Magic Flute made Texas history
They report it was it the best-attended opera stadium simulcast in the Lone Star State.
ARLINGTON About 15,000 people of all ages headed to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington for some tailgating and ... opera? The Dallas Opera presented its first-ever live simulcast of Mozart’s The Magic Flute from the Winspear Opera House, an effort to make opera more accessible to the masses.
Though it seems like an odd segue from football to opera, the event worked. More than 34,000 free tickets were reserved, and about half of those tickets were actually used, making it the largest simulcast in Texas history. Some people were lured by the opportunity to see the stadium, some by the love of opera, and many for both.
"The opera at Cowboys Stadium -- it’s a fabulous event," said Gail Mitchell of Dallas, who attended Saturday's event. "The venue couldn’t be better. And it’s free.”
With the 72x160 foot video screen running the nearly the length of the field, plus smaller screens facing the endzones, there wasn't a bad view of the three-hour opera from any seat. Sound was a little trickier. Those who sat away from the specially-installed speaker equipment heard echoes through the vast stadium. One person remarked how it sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher talking. However, the hard-working stadium personnel recognized the sound problems in the endzones and offered patrons better seats.
A couple of glitches in the feed were noticeable, like losing subtitles for several minutes during both acts. But, most attendees we talked to very complimentary about both the video and sound quality of the performance. The audience was treated to an up-close-and-personal view of the performers, orchestra, and sets.
”Even with the best tickets at the Winspear, you’re not going to see them like you see on this screen. We can see beads of sweat rolling down their cheeks,” said Ardell Mitchell.
Wendy Ervin of Irving was looking forward to viewing the opera on the big screen. Because she wears tri-focal glasses, she has difficulty seeing and is unable to use binoculars. “I’ll be able to see," she said. "If [I] can’t get within the first 10 rows [at an opera], the experience is great but [I] can’t see people as well.”
The stadium atmosphere did make for a more casual experience, both in dress and demeanor of the attendees. A few adorned Cowboys jerseys. Others felt at ease to talk lightly, getting up and down from their seats and, of course, eating. (What's a football event without a hotdog or nachos?) The performance was engaging enough that most of the background noise, especially from the concession stands, went virtually unnoticed.
Families with children found the stadium an ideal environment. Shannon Blackwell of Keller and her husband brought their three children, including their 8-month old daughter. “I would never do that to people who pay a whole lot of money to go to an actual opera. That would be very disrespectful to haul my kids in," she said. "But it’s free. So if the kids get crazy, we can leave.”
The couple’s 3-year-old daughter Coco might be more educated about the opera than many adults: Her violin teacher hosted a primer for the students and parents prior to the performance so they could be more familiar with the story. She already knew her favorite character -- Papagena.
Lily Herrera of Arlington and her husband brought their 10 and 11-year-olds. The couple had been to several operas before, but had not yet taken the kids.
“I thought this would be a great way for them to get exposed to it,” said Herrera. “We are enjoying it.”
The Magic Flute is an accessible story that examines the limits of loyalty and love. A singspiel -- combining both song and spoken word -- the opera was sung and spoken in German with English subtitles. Though it might have been difficult for younger viewers who could not read to follow the story, there were plenty of other elements to keep them engaged, like as the gorgeous costumes, stage affects, and timeless music of Mozart. The story involves a prince and princess, but Papageno the bird-catcher is the character who probably provided the best connection point for younger viewers because of his comedic scenes.
The Dallas Opera went out of their way to make the historic event memorable to the stadium audience, many of whom were seeing opera for the first time. The cast added special nods to the audience into their performances, like the Three Genii popping up in a scene wearing Cowboys jerseys. A special behind the stage camera captured the performers as they came off stage after curtain call just for the stadium feed. They all waved and and spoke thank you’s. The audience also saw several behind-the-scenes videos before the performance and during intermission.
We hope this simulcast will be the first of many to come.
Pegasus News Content partner - The Assignment Desk, DFW
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